Malaria cases rise but not contracted locally

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Malaria cases rise but not contracted locally

Malaria cases in Abu Dhabi have more than doubled in the past six years, but this is primarily because of the influx of expatriate workers and not through local transmission, said a health official.


Olivia Olarte-Ulherr

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Published: Tue 26 Jun 2012, 10:01 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:44 PM

“There is a steady increase in the number of malaria cases notified to the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) from 2005 up to 2011,” said Dr Ahmed Abdalla, senior officer of Communicable Diseases at the authority.

Compared to the about 900 cases in 2005, malaria cases reached 2,731 last year. The HAAD records showed that over 2,000 cases were from Pakistan, more than 500 from India and the rest from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, Nepal, Ethiopia and Somalia.

“All of these cases are imported from outside the country, none of these cases have been contracted inside the UAE...,” Dr Abdalla stressed.

According to him, the majority of the cases are from the “working population rather than tourist or travellers”.

Contracting malaria is not a ground for deportation in the country. Malaria, which is transmitted by the bite of an infective female Anopheles mosquito, is endemic in tropical countries in Asia, Africa and South America.

Although malaria can be a fatal disease, severe illness and death are largely preventable when a prompt diagnosis is made and proper treatment is administered.

On Monday, the HAAD hosted a workshop for laboratory technicians from private hospitals where the health authority receives most malaria notifications, in an effort to provide participants the skills and knowledge to diagnose malaria species accurately in blood film preparation.

Accurate diagnosis of malaria species would enable physicians to recommend treatment that would eradicate the parasite completely and avoid possible relapse.

“Accurate microscopic diagnosis is considered the gold standard for diagnosing malaria,” said Dr Abdalla who organised the three-day workshop.

Of the four plasmodium species, Plasmodium Vivax malaria is responsible for 82.5 per cent of all reported cases in Abu Dhabi. P. Vivax does not cause severe malaria and is found mostly in Southeast Asia and the Asian subcontinent, Dr Abdalla told Khaleej Times.

People travelling to malaria-endemic countries should take medication against the disease one to three weeks prior to travel and continue to take them when they come back. If fever occurs, he/she should consult a doctor, advised Dr Abdalla.

According to him, the first symptom for malaria is fever in varying degrees. “It can be like headache, muscle ache, sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea, and chills,” he described.

Malaria is a major global public health problem with an estimated 300-500 million cases and approximately one million deaths occurring annually, according to the World Health Organisation.

In the UAE, local transmission of malaria has been eliminated completely with the last reported case in 1997.

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